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Environment & Energy

Shale Gas Industry Group Gets New Leader

The Marcellus Shale Coalition is going to the past for its new president.  

The shale gas industry group on Tuesday named David Spigelmyer as its new president, replacing Kathryn Klaber, who announced in July that she was stepping down after four years on the job. After a two-month search the coalition decided on Spigelmyer, a founder and a past chairman of the group.

Spigelmyer was the former vice president of Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s Appalachia division until his post was eliminated in a corporate reorganization. He calls this time in the country a "transformation opportunity" through the use of natural gas "to develop jobs and economic opportunities for all Pennsylvanians and I want to make sure we don't squander that opportunity."

A report released Tuesday by the Department of Energy says that natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale region continues to grow rapidly — 12 billion cubic feet a day, more than six times the 2009 production. The vast majority of that gas is coming from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. 

"Back in 2008 we (Marcellus Shale Coalition companies) were producing 25 percent of the natural gas used in Pennsylvania.  Today we are producing 10 percent of what America uses,"  Spigelmyer said.

In 2008 consumers were paying burner tip prices of close to $20 for 1,000 cubic feet; today they are paying less than 10.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, there are nearly 9,000 active shale gas wells in Pennsylvania. At its highest point in 2010, there were 125 rigs drilling wells in the state; currently there are 100 active rigs.

The MSC says one of the issues the industry is addressing is that there are drilled wells that aren't active due to a lack of infrastructure.  

"Clearly we are working feverishly to build what I call the backbone of infrastructure to get gas from these prolific natural gas production fields to consumers across Pennsylvania and across this country," Spigelmyer said.

But he added it will take "five to 10 years to build out that infrastructure."

As for the opposition to the fracking process to release the gas, Spigelmyer acknowledges the industry is "never going to convince everyone."   

"We're going to make sure that policies are in place that provide rigor yet put Pennsylvania in a competitive position to attract capital to allow us to grow jobs and grow this resource base," he said.

Last month state Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) introduced legislation to place a moratorium on any new fracking in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 1100 would also create a commission to analyze the agricultural, economic, environmental and social effects of Marcellus Shale drilling.

"I would be a fool not if I didn't (pay close attention to such legislation," Spigelmyer said. "My job is to make sure we are continuing to educate every legislator not only on the benefits of the fuel but the scientific analysis that goes into hydraulic fracturing."